The Metro Scene

Dr. Lily McNair Makes History at Tuskegee University

Lily D. McNair

by Kristi Gates

Becoming Tuskegee University’s first female president is just one of the milestones Lily McNair has achieved over the course of her education and career. McNair was recently formally inaugurated on March 15, but has been serving as president since July 1, 2018. In that role, McNair is the institution’s chief executive officer, works in concert with its board of trustees, and oversees daily operation of an academic enterprise comprised of a student body of 3,000-plus students, 600-plus employees, and a budget exceeding $123 million in annual revenues.

Prior to joining Tuskegee University, she spent nearly seven years as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Wagner College. Before that, she served as associate provost of research and divisional coordinator for science and mathematics at Spelman College, where she was responsible for cultivating the institution’s research capabilities.

Another milestone came while she was an associate professor of psychology and associate director of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training Program at The University of Georgia. While there, she became the first African-American woman to obtain tenure and promotion in the Department of Psychology. Prior to that, she began her career first as a clinical psychologist at Vassar College and then as professor of psychology on the faculty of The State University of New York at New Paltz.

McNair has time and again acknowledged Tuskegee University’s historical contributions and her desire to continue them. Upon the announcement of her selection as president, she said, “I am honored and humbled to be selected to serve as the eighth president of Tuskegee University. The historic contributions of the university’s student, faculty and alumni are well known and valued throughout the nation. I very much look forward to building on the legacy of my predecessors so that Tuskegee University will ascent to even greater heights in the years to come.”

Later at her inauguration, she continued that sentiment saying, “I’ve learned several lessons in my time here at Tuskegee, including the importance of courage, just as our visitorinary founder and early leaders had. Booker T. Washington had the courage to speak the truth, the courage to establish a school for freed slaves, and the courage to recruit students and raise funds by forming partnerships during the 19th century. When we consider what he accomplished to establish [the university], it is nothing short of miraculous.”

A clinical psychologist by training, the New Jersey native holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Princeton University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is married to Dr. George W. Roberts, a retired senior administrator at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and together they have two adult children. In her limited free time, she enjoys cooking and reading, especially biographies and mysteries. Although her professional duties keep her busy, she says, “What I do is really not ‘work’ to me. It is what I love to do.”

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